Monday, November 4, 2013

Primetime

The short version:
Ari Pulkkinen—Trine: 3/10
Francisco Cerda—Jamestown: 2/10
Tomas Dvorak—Machinarium: 4/10
Matt Uelmen—Torchlight: 4/10
Mosh—Mosh: 4/10
Betty Who—The Movement: 4/10
Bastille—Bad Blood: 7/10
Empire of the Sun—Walking on a Dream: 6/10
Empire of the Sun—Ice on the Dune: 7/10
Silvia Torres—Silvia Torres: 3/10
KT Tunstall—Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon: 4/10
Marina and the Diamonds—The Family Jewels: 8/10
Natalia Kills—Trouble: 7/10
Janelle Monáe—The Electric Lady: 6/10
The Naked and Famous—In Rolling Waves: 7/10
Andrew Belle—Black Bear: 8/10
Morcheeba—Head Up High: 7/10

I made my way through a few indie game soundtracks: Trine, Jamestown, Machinarium, and Torchlight.  None of them are really must-listen.  Machinarium has several interesting sounds, but it's a bit light.  The best track amongst them is the Town theme from Torchlight, which will be instantly recognizable to Diablo II fans.  I also picked up a couple free albums from Mosh and Betty Who.  The Mosh album has a great but repetitive track McQueen, and the best thing on the Betty Who album is probably You're in Love.

I picked up Bad Blood by Bastille as an import, though it looks like it's since been released in the US.  Their track Pompeii is pretty popular, and one of the better rock songs I've heard in a while.  Things We Lost in the Fire and Icarus are similar, and they're the other two best songs on the album.  Overall, it's a rather good set of songs, but there are too many reused sounds and melodies.  These Streets, for example, sounds an awful lot like a lighter version of Pompeii to me.

Empire of the Sun's two albums Walking on a Dream and Ice on the Dune are both weird, trippy dance pop, produced by two dudes in wizard costumes.  I use the word "pop" to help you identify the style of music, but the majority of these songs would definitely never appear on the radio or become popular.  Most of the vocals are terribly bizarre, and obnoxious at times.  That said, from their first album, We Are the People, Country, and Swordfish Hotkiss Night are all great.  From their second album, DNA is one of the best songs I've heard in months, Concert Pitch is excellent too, and Awakening is definitely channeling Daft Punk.  I'd give them a recommendation if "weird, trippy dance pop" sounds like fun to you.

I've been waiting to pick up Silvia Torres's self-titled album for many years.  The opening track Take Saravá is wonderful, but most of the album is completely uninteresting.  The only other song I like is Pomba Cor de Cal.  It's worth picking up Take Saravá as a single if you like it, but pass on the rest.

KT Tunstall's latest album Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon is a lot lighter and folk-ier than I was expecting.  It's basically two half-albums, and neither one is really my thing.  That said, the second opening track Crescent Moon is really beautiful, and Invisible Empire and Feel It All are pretty decent.  I'm hesitant to recommend the album, but if you like "light and pretty" then you may like it.

Marina and the Diamonds's The Family Jewels was a welcome surprise.  I guess it's adult contemporary; it reminds me of Lily Allen more than anything.  There are quite a few catchy tracks worth listening: Shampain, Are You Satisfied?, and Numb; and those should give you a pretty good impression of what the rest is like.  This is probably the best overall album in the batch.

Natalia Kills's second album Trouble is I suppose the same genre as Marina and the Diamonds, but with a lot darker and grittier sound.  I love the variety in the album; I never really knew what to expect.  I recommend Problem, Devils Don't Fly, and Controversy (freaky seizure video).

Janelle Monáe is always bizarre and The Electric Lady is no exception.  A lot of the album's songs feel to me like they'd be a lot better with just a little more, and are saved mostly by the fact that Janelle has an amazing voice.  (I had the same problem with her previous albums so I should just expect it by now.)  The stand-out is Primetime featuring Miguel, which is just about the sexiest thing I have ever heard, and the video fits it gloriously.  Q.U.E.E.N. featuring Erykah Badu is probably my second-favorite.  And the title track featuring Solange is good too.

The second album from The Naked and Famous, In Rolling Waves, is much lighter than their previous album, and I definitely don't like it as much.  But, there are still some beautiful tracks on it.  The Mess and We Are Leaving are gorgeous, but you can't exactly rock out to them (well, maybe at the end).  The lead single Hearts like Ours is my third-favorite, and a bit more uptempo than the rest.  Overall it's still good, but if you liked their first album it's not a guarantee that you'll like this one.

Black Bear by Andrew Belle was another surprise.  I don't even remember how I stumbled across the album (possibly by mistyping Andrew Bayer), but it's an interesting album of vaguely hipstery alternative music.  The album opens with its best two tracks, Dark Matter and PiecesSanta Fe is my third favorite, with a weird funky bassline that I didn't expect on this CD.  Check it out.

Finally, Morcheeba has another new album oh-so-cleverly titled Head Up High.  There are some great songs on it, but quite a bit of it is mediocre, and doesn't hold a candle to some of their earlier work.  My favorite is To Be featuring Rizzle Kicks, followed by Call it Love, and Face of Danger featuring Chali 2na of Jurassic 5.

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